Adam Brooks has drawn many positives from his first NHL stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs this season, but the biggest one has to be how those seven games contributed to the two-year, two-way contract extension that the team announced for him early on Thursday.
“When I was able to go up and play those games, I felt more confident about this summer coming up and actually getting a contract extension,” Brooks told TSN on Thursday. “Not that I was really overly worried about it, but I think that those seven games really helped. I love being in Toronto. It’s a place that I don't want to leave, so to have two more years and to have some security, I’m really happy.”
The extension carries an average annual value of $725,000 at the NHL level, and saves Brooks from becoming a restricted free agent when this final season of his three-year, entry-level contract expires.
Negotiations on a new deal didn’t start until recently, but once the ball was rolling, Brooks didn’t need to wait long for good news.
“It was actually pretty quick, probably just took a week or so,” he said. “I think it was something we both obviously wanted to get done. I think whenever you're in a contract year, it's obviously in the back of your mind. Every year you want to do well, but when that contract year is coming up, you just want to make sure that you leave no doubts for the organization and give them a reason to want to bring you back.”
The 24-year-oldWinnipeg nativetried to do just that in what was shaping up to be the best season of his professional career prior to the NHL and American Hockey League hitting pause amid the global COVID-19 pandemic March12. Brooks started out strong with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and by December had been called up to make his NHL debut, eventually appearing in seven games total with three assists.
Back down with the Marlies, Brooks continued to be a driving force offensively, posting 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in 29 games.
While the AHL announced earlier this week it will not be finishing its2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHL is still working towards completing the year in some fashion. And should a return to play happen, Brooks will be back in the Leafs’ fold once more.
“If this does resume, I'm going to go back as a Black Ace, which I'm excited for,” he said. “Obviously we have to worry about the safety first, but if we're able to come back, it’ll be cool just to be a Black Ace throughout the NHL playoffs and see how everything unfolds at that level. It'll be a different situation but I think it would also be cool just to see teams that are probably fully healthy from the time off that they've had. To take all that in would be a really cool experience to learn from and to watch.”
Brooks learned long ago the value in being patient while waiting for his own opportunities. He was passed over in two straight NHL drafts before Toronto finally selected him in the fourth round, 92ndoverall, in 2016. But even while being overlooked, Brooks developed into a prolific performer with the WHL’s Regina Pats, putting up 120 points in 2015-16 and 130 points in 2016-17 before graduating to the Marlies.
At the pro level, Brooks’ hallmarks have continued to be a keen work ethic and positive attitude on and off the ice. With a new contract in hand now,hehopes the next stage of his career will build on everything he's been through so far, while allowing him to make a more permanent home at the NHL level.
“I would see myself being similar to what I was during the Marlies’  Calder Cup playoff run to a championship,” he mused. “I was able to be a fourth line guy who creates energy and does what he can in order to help the team win. If the team is falling off a little bit you try to get them back in shape and I think that was something that [Marlies’ linemates] Mason [Marchment] and Trevor [Moore] and I really prided ourselves on in the playoffs that year and something that I would try to bring to the Leafs if I'm able to. I also love being on the penalty kill, and using my mind to outthink some guys. If I could do that, it would all sound pretty good."